Wednesday, July 01, 2015

-self pronouns

Ann from Traverse City called in to complain about an increase in the misuse of pronouns ending in -self. They are being used in place of object pronouns, as in “Give the check to John or myself,” or “According to herself, the price of coffee will continue to rise.”

Ann has a valid point. Those sentences should read, “Give the check to John or me,” and “According to her, the price of coffee will continue to rise.” Of course, being of Irish descent, I make allowance for the imperial deferential mockingly used by Irish wives: “Himself wants another cup of tea.”

There are some valid pronouns ending in –self; they include myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves. There are two kinds, and their type is determined solely by their position in the sentence.

The intensive pronouns are used to intensify or emphasize the subject of the sentence or another noun or pronoun in that sentence. They are placed side by side with the word they are emphasizing.

  •     I myself witnessed the accident.
  •    He himself claims to have been abducted by aliens.
  •      The play itself was designed to stir the king’s conscience.
  •    We wrote the letter to the Mayor herself.
  •    You yourselves are responsible for this mess.

Reflexive pronouns point back to the subject.

  •        I witnessed the accident myself.
  •       You should let yourself enjoy the magic of the moment.
  •        We pride ourselves on superior value and service.
  •        She pays herself a hefty salary.
  •        They like to sit in the dark all by themselves.

Remember that if the verb is in the imperative mood (a command), the unwritten subject is always the silent pronoun you.

  •         Please let yourself in when you arrive; the door is unlocked.
  •        Don’t sell yourselves short.

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